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Marcel Dupré
Complete Organ Music, Volume 8: Poèmes Symphonique
Op. 37, 44 & 47. Jeremy Filsell (organ)
Guild GMCD 7183 60 mins (PGW)

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This is the latest release in a well received, mammoth undertaking to record the entire organ music of Marcel Dupré (1886-1971). Vols. 9 - 12 are promised later this year. Son of a distinguished organist, Marcel's whole long life was devoted to the organ, with over 2000 recitals, textbooks and teaching editions, numerous compositions, those after 1920 exclusively for the organ. His skills were legendary; 'spellbinding virtuosity and ability to improvise strict five-part fugues with miraculous ease'. In 1920 he played at the Royal Albert Hall to an audience of 9000 people!

So what of the music, based upon these three major works of the 1940s? It is all essentially tonal, with final resolutions onto satisfying tonic chords, often sat upon just a little too long, maybe. But on the way it is inclined to be chromatic and enterprisingly wayward harmonically, and explores a rich palate of registrations. He is a consummate craftsman but also a musical poet, who said 'I love colourful harmonies - - music should caress the ear'.

Evocation Op 37 (1940), in memory of his father, is believed to capture the elder Dupré's worrying nature and dignified pride. The first movement starts uneasily and leads to a stormy allegro, the slow movement is dreamy, with an unexpected tiny scherzo embedded in it, and the tempestuous finale mixes 'anger, nostalgia and defiance'. Vision Op 44 (1947) is a stranger piece in a single long movement, suggesting the creation of the world in the 1st chapter of Genesis. Psalm XVIII Op. 47 (1949) has a cyclical structure, opening with a depiction of the rising of the sun, which bursts into a dazzling toccata, followed by a slow movement in five sections and a final free double fugue with virtuoso pedal writing.

This is music well worth investigating, displaying considerable individuality. The performances, vividly recorded at Sarasota in Florida, appear to be all that one could hope for (I do not have any scores) and earlier releases in the series have earned plaudits from Gramophone and Classic CD. I take this opportunity to commend also Filsell's 1997 CD of organ concertos by Dupré, Gilles and Demessieux with the BBC Concert Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth - a welcome change from the Poulenc concerto and the Saint-Saens organ symphony [Guild GMCD 7136 * * * *].


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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